A comprehensive review of law school enrollment by race and ethnicity in 2022, with a focus on Black student enrollment
Law school enrollment among students of color increased for the 3rd year in a row in 2022, according to the most recent data collected from the American Bar Association (ABA).
The data nevertheless shows that Black people, in particular, continue to be underrepresented in law school classrooms relative to their representation in the general population.
Let's take a closer look at the racial and ethnic composition of law schools in 2022, including the top 10 law schools based on minority enrollment. Let's also take a look at a recent United States Supreme Court decision that could have serious implications for minority law school applicants.
Race and ethnicity classifications
The ABA requires each accredited law school to report enrollment data annually by completing a Standard 509 Disclosure. The Standard 509 Disclosure allows law schools to report the race and ethnicity of their students using seven distinct categories defined by the ABA:
- Hispanics of any race: A person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.
- American Indian or Alaska Native: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition.
- Asian: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian Subcontinent, including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Vietnam.
- Black or African American: A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
- Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.
- Two or more races: The category used to report a non-Hispanic person who selects two or more of the other racial categories.
- White: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.
Minority representation in law schools
The total number of minorities enrolled in law school in the United States increased for the fifth year in a row in 2022, and the percentage of minorities enrolled in law school increased for the third year in a row.
|Total law students
|Percentage of minority students
Each of the seven racial and ethnic groups identified by the ABA increased in size in each of the last five years, with the exception of Black, American Indian, and Native Hawaiian, all of which have seen some fluctuation.
|Two or more
The racial and ethnic makeup of law students in ABA-accredited law schools comes close to reflecting the racial and ethnic makeup of the United States population as a whole. The first pie chart below shows the total percentage breakdown of ethnicities and races in the U.S. according to the most recent United States Census Bureau data. The second pie chart shows the total percentage breakdown of ethnicities and races in all ABA-accredited law schools.
As you can see from the pie charts, the most significant disparity between the general population and law students is among students identifying as Black (13.3 percent compared to 8.3 percent), followed by law students who identify as Hispanic (18.5 percent compared to 14.6 percent).
Law school rankings based on ethnic-racial minority enrollment
The ABA Council for Diversity in the Educational Pipeline and the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) have made efforts to increase the enrollment of traditionally underrepresented groups and people of color in colleges and law schools across the country.
In addition, many law schools have taken steps intended to increase enrollment of minorities, particularly Black students, in competitive law programs.
For example, in 2019, Syracuse University College of Law sought to double Black student enrollment in five years by entering into "3+3 admissions" agreements with three historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Georgia. The 3+3 program allows students to finish a bachelor's degree and a law degree in six years rather than seven.
Since announcing the program in 2019, the number of Black law students enrolled at Syracuse University College of Law has gone from 49 (2019) to 46 (2020) to 56 (2021) to 51 (2022), underscoring the challenge of increasing Black enrollment.
Here is a look at the top 10 law schools with the highest percentage of students identifying with each race and ethnicity recognized by the ABA.
Here's a look at where students from historically underrepresented communities are not attending law school.
Note that the chart above doesn't include a list of schools with the lowest percentages of American Indian or Alaskan Native law students. This is because there were 59 ABA-accredited law schools in the U.S. that reported enrolling zero students who identified themselves in this group.
The chart also excludes schools with the lowest percentages of Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander law students because there were a total of 133 schools in the U.S. that reported enrolling zero students who identified themselves in this group.
The United States Supreme Court decision on affirmative action and its impact on minority enrollment
On June 29, 2023, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the policies of Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, which consider an applicant’s race during the admissions process, violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.
The ruling essentially prohibits schools from using affirmative action practices that have long been credited with increasing the presence of Black, Hispanic, and other minority students in law school classrooms.
At the University of Michigan Law School and Berkeley School of Law, the number of minority students dropped precipitously after Michigan and California banned affirmative action in public university admissions—although both schools found creative ways to boost their numbers.
We will continue to track the racial and ethnic composition of law schools to see how this landmark United States Supreme Court ruling might impact minority enrollment.
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Data source: American Bar Association, ABA Required Disclosures (Standard 509 Reports). Any mistakes in data reported to the ABA are the responsibility of the reporting school. Enjuris assumes no responsibility for inaccuracies or for changes in such information that may occur after publication. The figures here are as reported on December 16, 2022. Schools may update their data at any time. Please see the ABA website for updated figures.